Live performances adapt to bring in revenue during COVID-19 pandemic


HONOLULU (KHON2) — One of the things the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to is live performances in theaters.

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Local artists and performers have had to get creative when it comes to bringing in revenue without indoor seating available.

For Diamond Head Theatre, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the theater has decided to bring their live performances outdoors using their parking lot.

They have set up the space similar to a drive in theater.

“You sit in your car,” said Deena Dray, Diamond Head Theatre executive director. “A lot of people bring dinner, and the music comes in through your FM radio. The music inside your car is fabulous. We have the singers positioned on our loading dock.”

Dray said with space for only about 45 cars, the tickets for the shows sell out fast.

While it doesn’t bring in as much revenue as a full 500-seat theater, she said any monetary help is needed.

Three of their shows from last season were cancelled and this season, the outlook still isn’t good.

“Last weekend was our planned opening weekend,” said Dray. “I know. We’ve basically cut a million dollars out of our budget to be able to survive, and it’s really challenging here.”

They aren’t the only ones experiencing this. The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra has also seen a ticket revenue loss of over a million dollars.

“We rely very heavily on in person events,” said Dave Moss, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra Executive Director. “We do our best business when we have 3,000 people in the concert hall.”

To make some of that up, they have decided to bring the symphony online so that people can watch it from their homes.

“So you would buy an individual ticket just like you would to an in-person performance,” said Moss. “Except you can stay home in your pajamas, drink your own wine in the comfort of your own home, but get to hear live musicians.”

Due to COVID-19, he said they have cut down their performers on stage down to about 20. They have set up the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall into a production stage with multiple cameras set up to film the action. He said these online performances will likely continue even when the venue reopens for live performances.

However, the industry is looking forward to bringing people back into the theater eventually. For the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, Moss said they expect a return possibly in January.

For the Diamond Head Theatre, Dray is unsure yet of when they may return to a regular show. Both say there may be major changes.

For one thing, seating will be decreased by at least half to accommodate social distancing. There are other changes being discussed as well.

“We’re looking at shorter shows, so only one act. There would be no intermission. We would not sell any snacks or drinks or anything. We would have strict guidelines for show social distancing for sanitation,” said Dray.

Dray said the City and County of Honolulu has informed them that they are considered “commercial attractions.” Under Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s tiered system for reopening, 25 people would be allowed to be in commercial attractions at the fourth tier.

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